Hall vs. Robinson, et al, No. 4:2012cv03474 - Document 19 (S.D. Tex. 2013)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting in part denying in part 8 MOTION to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Redundant Official Capacity Claims and State Tort Claims Under 101.106, Texas Tort Claims Act Against Nominal Defendants Robinson and Brooks (Signed by Judge Ewing Werlein, Jr) Parties notified.(kpicota)
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Hall vs. Robinson, et al Doc. 19 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS HOUSTON DIVISION MICHELLE HALL and DANNY HALL individually and A/N/F of M. S . H. a minor I § § § § § § I I Plaintiffs l v. ROBERT EMERSON ROBINSON THOMAS D. BROOKS and HARRIS COUNTY CIVIL ACTION NO. H-12-3474 § § § § § § § I I I Defendants. MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Pending (Document response I is Defendant No.8). Harris After County/s carefully and applicable law l Motion considering to the Dismiss motion l the Court concludes as follows. I. Background Plaintiffs Michelle Hall and Danny Hall next friend of minor M.S.H. Robert Emerson Robinson ( "Defendantsll) . 1 l ("Plaintiffs Thomas Robinson was juvenile supervision officer l D. ll ) Brooks l individually and as I bring suit against I and employed by Harris Harris County County as a and Brooks is the Executive Director of the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department ("HCJPDII).2 1 Document NO.6 (1st Am. Cmplt.). 2 Id. ~~ 6-7. Dockets.Justia.com In May of 2012, M.S.H., a 15-year-old female, was housed at the Harris County Juvenile Justice Center ("HCJJC") allege that during her incarceration, Plaintiffs 3 Robinson, a juvenile supervision officer assigned to the boys unit, regularly visited M.S.H., harassed her, and ultimately raped her.4 Plaintiffs bring claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants, and against Robinson alleges torts of assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 5 Defendant Harris County moves to dismiss the Section 1983 claims against Defendants Robinson and Brooks as duplicative of the claims against Harris County.6 Harris County also moves to dismiss the state law tort claims against Robinson and Brooks on the grounds that the Texas Tort Claims Act ("TTCA") requires employees to be dismissed from a suit when tort claims are brought against both a governmental unit and its employees.? 3 Id. ~ 9. 4 Id. ~~ 9-13. Robinson allegedly confessed to committing sexual assault and rape, has been charged with sexual assault of a minor, and is on bail awaiting trial. Id. at 5. 5 Id. ~~ 20-28. 6 Document No.8. Defendants Robinson and Brooks have not answered the lawsuit. Document No. 12 at 1. 7 Document No.8. 2 II. Discussion A. Legal Standard Rule 12(b) (6) provides for dismissal of an action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." When a 12(b)(6). district court reviews FED. R. CIV. P. the sufficiency of a complaint before it receives any evidence either by affidavit or admission, its task is inevitably a limited one. Rhodes, 94 S. Ct. 1683, 1686 (1974). See Scheuer v. The issue is not whether the plaintiff ultimately will prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Id. In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b) (6), the district court must construe the allegations in the complaint favorably to the pleader and must accept as true all well-pleaded facts 117 in the complaint. F.3d 242, 247 (5th See Cir. Lowrey v. 1997). To Tex. A&M Uni v . survive Sys . , dismissal, a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." 1955, 1974 (2007). Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference misconduct alleged." (2009) . While a that the defendant Ashcroft v. complaint Iqbal, "does not is 129 S. need liable for Ct. 1937, detailed the 1949 factual allegations . . . [the] allegations must be enough to raise a right 3 to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true fact)." B. (even if doubtful in Twombly, 127 S. Ct. at 1964-65. Analysis Harris County argues that the Section 1983 claims against Brooks should be dismissed on the grounds that they are duplicative of the claims against the County. 8 It is undisputed that all claims against Brooks are against him "in his official capacity as the Executive Director of the Harris County Juvenile Probation a department of Defendant Harris County. 9 Department," Plaintiffs' they are Because claims are against Brooks in his official capacity, claims dismissed as against redundant. his employer Harris County See MCCoy- Eddington v. and Brazos are Cnty., Civ.A. H-05-0395, 2007 WL 1217989, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 24, 2007) (plaintiff's claims against director of Brazos County Department of Juvenile Services Brazos County, "are considered claims against her employer, and are, given that Brazos County is also a Defendant, redundant."). Document No.8 at 1-2. 9 Document No. 6 No. 12 at 2, 5. ~ 7. See also Document No.8 at 1i Document 4 Plaintiffs assert that the Section 1983 Robinson are brought in his individual capacity.10 claims against As Section 1983 does not preclude a plaintiff from bringing an action against a government survive. official See in his Kentucky v. individual Graham, 105 S. (distinguishing personal-capacity suits, capacity, Ct. which these claims 3105 (1985) 3099, "seek to impose personal liability upon a government official for actions he takes under color of state law," from official-capacity suits, which are another way of pleading an action against the state entity for which the officer works) . Harris County also contends that Plaintiffs' intentional torts claims are inconsistent with the TTCA and should be dismissed. 11 The TTCA provides, "[i]f a suit is filed under this chapter against both a governmental unit and any of its employees, the employees shall immediately be dismissed on the filing of a motion by the governmental unit." (West 2011) .12 TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE .ANN. § 101. 106 (e) Plaintiffs assert claims against both Robinson and Document No. 8 at 2 i Document No. 6 ~ 6 ("ROBINSON . . . was acting in his capacity as a juvenile supervision officer and under color of state law."). To the extent that Plaintiffs are alleging official capacity claims against Robinson, an HCJPD employee, they are dismissed for the reasons stated above. 10 11 Document No.8 at 2. 12 See also Mission Consolo Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Garcia, 253 S.W.3d 653, 659 (Tex. 2008) ("Because the Tort Claims Act is the only, albeit limited, avenue for common-law recovery against the government, all tort theories alleged against a governmental unit, whether it is sued alone or together with its employees, are 5 the County under Section 1983, against only Robinson.13 but bring state law tort claims As Section 1983 claims are not brought under the TTCA, Plaintiffs have not filed suit 'under this chapter' against both 101.106 (e) Harris County is inapplicable. and its employees, and Estate of Shane G. See Sorrells v. City of Dallas, 45 Fed. Appx. 325, 2002 WL 1899592, *4 2002) (per curiam) Dallas were Section (5th Cir. ("The Sorrell Family's state law claims against not claims 'under this because Dallas was only sued under § chapter,' 1983.") i.e., the TTCA, (citing Bell v. Love, 923 S.W.2d 229, 231 (Tex. App. 1996)); Green v. Nueces Co., Tex., Civ. A. No. 2010) C-09-316, (Jack, J.) 2010 WL 918972, at *5 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 15, ("Section 101.106 (e) does not apply in this case because Plaintiff has not filed suit 'under this chapter against both a governmental unit and any of its employees.' While Plaintiff has asserted a Section 1983 claim against both sets of Defendants, such a claim is not brought 'under this Chapter.'"). III. Order For the foregoing reasons, it is ORDERED that Defendant Harris County's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint (Document No.8) is GRANTED as assumed to be under [the Tort Claims Act] for purposes of Section 101.106.") (alteration in original) (internal quotations omitted). 13 Document No. 6 ~~ 20-28. 6 to all claims against Defendant Thomas D. Brooks, who is DISMISSED as a defendant; and as to claims against Defendant Robert Emerson Robinson in his official capacity, and all claims against Defendant Robinson in his official capacity are DISMISSED. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is otherwise DENIED. The Clerk shall notify all parties and provide them with a signed copy of this Order. ~ SIGNED at Houston, Texas, on this ~~Of July, 2013. ~~~\J __ . UNITED 7 WERLEIN, JR. TES DISTRICT JUDGE r